Summer blockbuster preview 2006 - Part One

Well it is time for another summer of expensive productions vying to clean up at the box office with spectacular results. There is the usual glut of action epics, but also a fair few more interesting pictures among the Hollywood studios’ releases. Zap! BANG! takes a look at the story so far and what’s lined up for the first part of the summer.

The Story so Far

Blockbuster season is well underway with four big hitters already landing with varied results. First up was the first franchise film of 2006, Mission: Impossible III (J.J. Abrams). It has grossed nearly $300 million so the Tom Cruise vehicle is by no means a flop and had excellent reviews. However, it will still be ranked as an underperformer in terms of earning potential as the $150 million production slips off top 10s worldwide fast. Popular novel adaptation The Da Vinci Code (Ron Howard) was the global sensation everyone expected despite poor reviews. Taking more than $450 million in two weeks is no mean feat, although the usual qualms about blockbuster quality lingered. This was emphasised by the poor showing from Poseidon (Wolfgang Petersen). The usually reliable Petersen has turned in a turkey as weak as The Core (Jon Amiel, 2003) which was avoided by moviegoers. Already ignored at the American box office, ship disaster flick Poseidon is unlikely to set sail to money land when it is released elsewhere.

So with no blockbuster really hitting the mark in terms of box office and reviews, it was left to X-Men 3: The Last Stand (Brett Ratner) to stand up and be counted. Although critics complained it does lack the emotional pull of the two Bryan Singer installments, it has done the business of bringing in the fouth-highest weekend takings ever at the US box office and looks set to be the hit of the year so far. So what of the major releases?

Still to Come:

Cars (John Lasseter)

Will Pixar finally produce a bad kids film that is hated by adults? Well, probably not as this has the same writer and director as Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2 (1999) and A Bug’s Life (1998) in John Lasseter. Owen Wilson leads the cast in the computer-generated animation that will look to emulate previous Pixar hits and be another sure-fire winner. This should be a great all-rounder.

The Omen (John Moore)

Making the best possible use of date marketing, The Omen will be hitting screens from 06/06/06. Is it a cheap cash-in purely for the novelty factor of using ‘666’ in the advertsing campaign? Early reviews suggest it is, adding to the calls for the abandoning of pointless horror film remakes that don’t offer anything particularly new. The Omen may win over a few people for the Tuesday openings, but if it sucks and everyone tells their friends there will be little earning potential over the first weekend. Expect this one to falter.

The Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift (Justin Lin)

No Vin Diesel and not even Paul Walker return for a third entry to what is becoming a franchise of films about street racing. Again the plot revolves around races along highways and at illegal gatherings — the twist is that this time the action unfolds in Tokyo. Lucas Black, last seen in Jarhead (Sam Mendes, 2005) heads the cast but the real appeal is going to be the race scenes which looked as jam-packed with crashes and car fireballs as ever. Director Lin’s naval drama Annapolis (2006) flopped in January, but his past success with low budget crime film Better Luck Tomorrow (2002) suggests he could pull off a moderate hit. Universal will be hoping he can and it should fair a lot better than motorcycle racing drop-outs Biker Boyz (Reggie Rock Bythewood, 2003) and Torque (Joseph Khan, 2004).

Garfield’s A Tail of Two Kitties (Tim Hill)

More sequel action for 2006 with Bill Murray, Breckin Meyer and Jennifer Love-Hewitt reprising their roles from the 2004 original. In a real ‘run out of ideas’ move, this installment sees Garfield travelling to England where a case of mistaken identity sees him ruling over a castle estate — a rewoking of the Prince and the Pauper story. So with few surprises for adults there, it will be up to British stars such as Bob Hoskins and Billy Connolly to try their best to win over the grown-ups. Kids will most likely find some fun here, but it is hard to be enthusiastic after the dud last time round.

Click (Frank Coraci)

Adam Sandler weighs in this year with a comedy lifted straight from childhood fantasy. He plays a workaholic architect who discovers a remote control that can control time. A strong support cast of Christopher Walken, Kate Beckinsale and Sean Astin should make this a crowd-pleaser, especially with director Coraci behind the camera. He has worked with Sandler on The Waterboy and The Wedding Singer (both 1998) so there should be laughs to be had.

Superman Returns (Bryan Singer)

The big one. Will Singer weave his X-Men magic and turn Brandon Routh into a superstar overnight? Well Warner Bros. will certainly hope so as it has left its wallet wide open for the return of the man of steel. Estimates have placed the budget at around $250 million so this has got to be a hit otherwise heads will surely role. On that note, the trailer is packed full of eye-opening special effects and a very evil looking Kevin Spacey as Lex Luther, which is a good thing. Whether there will be some decent characterisation and drama to fill in the gaps is another matter. Singer’s presence should have ensured that it is not a total mess. Probably as eagerly awaited as Hulk (Ang Lee, 2003), this will be the comic book event of the year. Fingers crossed it is closer to Spider-man (Sam Raimi, 2002) than Elektra (Rob Bowman, 2005).

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